In baseball, and I guess life itself, it is always fun to play the “What if..” game. Always! What if Miguel Cabrera played for a contender, but in a hitter’s park? What if Bud Norris could pitch nearly as well on the road as he does at home? What if Tim McCarver enlightened people with his thoughts and insights? See? It’s a fun game, right? That’s rhetorical folks, just keep reading. I mean there is no real way to answer these questions, they are just posed to incite spirited debate and conjecture. Which brings me to Chase Headley.
As you know, Chase Headley plays for the San Diego Padres, who play their home games in Petco Park, which is widely known to be a picther’s park, to say the least. In 2012, for instance, only Safeco Field and AT&T Park proved harder to hit the ball out of and fewer runs were scored in only three other parks. So naturally, the home power, and generally all, numbers would be a bit on the low side for Padres hitters. Sure a very good hitter, like Adrian Gonzalez, can still do some damage there, but for most mere mortal hitters their numbers will get sapped and their fantasy value will drop. And no one’s value has been taking a bigger hit over the past few seasons because of this, than Mr. Headley.
Mired in this pitcherest of pitcher’s parks Headley’s fantasy and real life value can tend to be underesitmated. What he is doing in the month of August is a good indicator of what he is capable of. Thus far in August he has ten dingers, which is tied for the most in the month with Giancarlo Stanton. He is tied with Adrian Gonzalez for the lead in RBIs this month, with 28. His wOBA for the month is tenth in the majors at .424, and his OPS of 1.027 is seventh. Now obviously I am not saying that Headley can rock an OPS, or these other stupendous numbers, quite that high for a full season, but playing home games in a different park, could really raise his fantasy value. Just take a look at his slash lines (AVG/OBP/SLG) at Petco, the last three seasons:
As you can see, at least Chase is slowly improving those home numbers and this season’s numbers are actually somewhat respectable. Plus if he does continue to play for the Padres and their home park stays the same, he could have those home numbers up to above average in two to three seasons, tops! But just how above average could he be if he played half his games in a better hitter’s park? Well take a look at his road slashes over the same three seasons:
If that is any sort of indication of what he can do, freeing him from Petco’s clutches would certainly increase his fantasy value quite a bit. Waht you may not already know, because it certainly flew under my radar, is he is already ranked fifth at the hot corner and 40th overall this season in Yahoo! The modest improvement to his home numbers appears to already be making a difference, but you have to feel like a different home park would not only keep in the top five amongst third basemen, but also cold make him a top 20-25 overall fantasy player. Just take a look at how his road slashes stack up against the overall numbers of qualifying third basemen this season:
Miguel Cabrera, DET- .324
David Wright, NYM- .317
Adrian Beltre, TEX- .310
David Freese, STL- .299
Aramis Ramirez, MIL- .291
Chase Headley, SD- .289
David Wright, NYM- .410
Miguel Cabrera, DET- .391
Chase Headley, SD- .387
David Freese, STL- .370
Alex Rodriguez, NYY- .358
Miguel Cabrera, DET- .586
Chase Headley, SD- .525
Adrian Beltre, TEX- .519
Aramis Ramirez, MIL- .516
David Wright, NYM- .515
Not too shabby, huh? Now of course, this is part of the ‘What if…” game though, isn’t it? Now, I am by no means naive enough to think there is any sort of guarantee that those numbers will be in that exact range if he were to switch to a better hitter’s park , but it is at least something to think about. As far as the hot corner would be concerned, he wouldn’t move up too much higer than number five as long as Miggy and David Wright are around, but three or four could certainly be attainable. But what if he were to switch parks and what if his road slashes, and numbers in general, were what he posted for a full season? Well, let us take a look, shall we?
Using his road numbers this season his batting average would still not be spectacular, but it would plop him in the top 50 amongst this season’s qualified hitters. A .387 OBP would be good for 13th and a .525 slugging percentage would place him 16th. Sure these are not all numbers that are used in all fantasy leagues and may not necessarily translate to fantasy goodness, so let’s go further and try and extrapolate some counting stats based on Chase’s road numbers.
Using Headley’s fly ball and home run to fly ball rate on the road and applying this to his home at bats this season, you could estimate that he would have eight more home runs at home this season. Obviously this is only an estimate based on quick and somewhat simplistic number crunching, but that would still put him at 30 homers on the year. Now, if his runs and RBIs per plate appearance on the road were applied to his home at bats, he would now have 89 RBIs and 74 runs. Now the runs and RBIs do not get a ginormous boost, but the homers would be greatly enhanced. If he were at thirty home runs at this point in the season would be good for 8th in the majors. His 89 RBIs? Those would be good for sixth in the majors . The 74 runs? Those would put him 25th in the majors. Stacked against other qualifying third basemen this season? In homers he would be 2nd, in RBIs he would be 2nd (although he is already 2nd this season) and in runs he would be 3rd. Again, this is based on quite a few “What ifs” and certain rates staying the same throughout the season, but you can certainly see that Mr. Headley should be able to stay a top five fantasy third baseman for the future. However, if Chase can be freed from the hitter’s prison that is Petco, it could very well aslo propel him to the likes of at least a top 25 fantasy player. So I say free Chase Headley and the gaudy numbers he could put up in another home park, or at least stay classy and bring those fences in!